“Brilliant. . . . Lewis has given us a spectacular account of two great men who faced up to uncertainty and the limits of human reason.” —William Easterly, Wall Street Journal
Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original papers that invented the field of behavioral economics. One of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, Kahneman and Tversky’s extraordinary friendship incited a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis’s own work possible. In The Undoing Project, Lewis shows how their Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality.
Lewis (Flash Boys) deftly explores a timeless and fascinating subject human decision-making through the intellectually intimate collaboration of two influential psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The pair met in 1969 and worked together until a few years before Tversky's death in 1996. As Lewis explains, they discovered that people do not make decisions as economists long believed as "intuitive statisticians" but rather in a chaotic fashion shot through with confirmation bias, fears of regret, sensitivity to change, the desire to avoid loss, and a propensity to mentally undo distressing outcomes. Through interviews with Tversky and Kahneman's friends, family, colleagues, rivals, and critics, as well as the psychologists' own recollections, letters, and published papers, Lewis seamlessly pieces together an informative and engagingly paced story. He begins with a step-by-step explanation of why both human minds and statistical models so often fail to produce the best choice. He then interweaves the psychologists' early lives, military service in defense of the young state of Israel, and professorial careers in both Israel and the United States with their questions, theories, and startling conclusions about how people actually make decisions. Lewis' latest effort is a joy to read, packed with "aha!" moments, telling and at times hilarious details, and elegant explanations of complex experiments and theories.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent , Mind Warping Experience
I've read almost every book written by Michael Lewis and all have been thought provoking but this is the first that is "thought destroying". I deal with questions of judgement and decision making in uncertain conditions every day and have seen (and fallen prey) to many of the mistakes (or inaccuracies) in our thinking, expectations and "undoings". I would highly recommend this book to anyone that: wishes to understand themselves and their thinking more deeply, make better decisions, or perhaps have a competitive advantage in a business venture. One thing it will probably NOT help is building better relationships - most people will struggle with these concepts and some (like my wife) may see it as some type of indirect or Machiavellian approach to getting your way ("our human brain is flawed - let's try a better approach" does not go over very well). Still, I would rank this as Lewis' best, perhaps most meaningful, topic to date and that is the highest praise I can bestow.
A story of friendship
For those interested in Amos and Danny’s work, read Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. For those interested in a story of friendship, read this book. Amos and Danny are two different people whose minds work as one. The bravado of one earned him accolades the shyer one envied, and ultimately tore them apart. Death brought them back together.
As usual, Micheal Lewis writes engaging prose that seamlessly blends this story of friendship with the complex psychology that bound it together.